Fundamentals of supply chain are breaking down amid ‘Pingdemic’ says Cranfield expert


Commenting on the struggle of supply chains amid the ‘Pingdemic’, Professor Richard Wilding OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield School of Management, said:

“For any supply chain to operate you need processes, IT systems, physical infrastructure and equipment but critically you need people to support this. What we are seeing here is the removal of one of the critical fundamentals of the supply chain, people.

“Typically, organisations plan for a 3% absentee rate, what we are seeing here appears much higher and causing significant problems. Any reduction in the workforce above planned levels will always cause disruption.

“The challenge is the ‘pingdemic’ affects all part of the supply chain in both the front end where customers are served in supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, pubs, health care settings but also the back end of the supply chain that supports these businesses including warehouse operators, delivery drivers, lorry drivers moving things across the country, manufacturing plant operators and ultimately those involved in waste collection and recycling.

“Even if you have a fully staffed supermarket, if you have a warehouse or a production plant running at 50% of its capacity, you will have problems filling shelves with product. The same is true if you lose supermarket workers, if you have product but nobody to stock the shelves or staff the tills, you can’t operate effectively.

“With no end in sight of the ‘pingdemic’, organisations will have to plan and prioritise operations to take into account a reduced work force, possibly over a sustained period. This could include reducing the number of shifts operated, focusing on the essentials, focusing only on high profit margin products and services to maximise revenue with the limited resource available and, in the worst case, shutting down parts of operations.

“All these actions will potentially impact on consumer choice and the customer experience. The already burning platform of the pandemic is driving all organisations to explore automation in all areas to a greater extent. Supply chains will never return to the old normal and the impact on our society will continue as we move into the new normal.”

“The challenge is that it is not only the “pingdemic” putting strain on supply chains, floods in Europe causing re-routing and disruption, hot weather causing change in customer buying patterns and the huge backlog in HGV driver tests caused by the pandemic, for example, all contribute to supply chain volatility and pressures.”